My girlfriend and I are planning a trip across the southern tier beginning this coming September and are trying to do some initial planning for what gear we will need to purchase. Between the two of us we currently own a set of ortlieb front and back roller classics and a medium-sized ortlieb handlebar bag. For the 3-5 day tours we have taken thus far, I have carried the back rollers and the handlebar bag, while she has carried the front rollers on her rear rack. This has worked decently for our short trips, but for a ~2 month tour, we'll need a bit more carrying capacity.
It seems to me that the default set up for cross-country tourists is to have front and rear panniers plus a handlebar bag. However, since we will be sharing a lot of our gear (tent, cookware, tools, etc), I'm wondering if we can reasonably forego the purchase of one set of front panniers. I would thus be carrying front and rear panniers + handlebar bag while she would have just rear panniers + handlebar bag. This would mean that all we'd need to buy bag-wise is the back panniers and handlebar bag (we'll probably go ortlieb again) while saving the cost of the front panniers and front rack.
My questions are these: (1) Will this be enough space to carry all of our gear and supplies? We plan on packing reasonably light but we will be camping most nights and cooking most of our meals. (2) Will the imbalanced load (though lighter overall weight) of my girlfiend's bike cause handling irregularities that will become unmanageably unpleasant over the course of a crosscountry tour? FWIW we will both be riding surly LHTs.
Thanks for the input!